French Culinary History

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French Culinary History
The word “French cuisine” brings many tastes in the mouth; usually a mix of nicely
presented food with loads of butter and cheese and a glass of red wine at the side.
French cuisine has evolved greatly over the years, but there’s no single type of cuisine;
there are many cuisines based on different regions and the availability of ingredients.
But, the style of cooking and the technique unifies regional cuisines to form the popular
French cuisine.
French cooking has seen many influences including Roman and Italian. Here’s a
snapshot of the evolution of the French cuisine: Medieval French cuisine
Major characteristics of the cuisine at this time were elaborately laid-out banquets with
elegant presentation and bright colors; multiple courses served all at once; heavy flavors
and thick sauces; meals ending with a dessert. The commonly used ingredients were
mustard, honey, vinegar, aged cheese, spiced wine, salted beef, smoked pork, bacon
and sausages, brined and dried ham, food preservation using salt or honey, whale,
dolphin, porpoise, and poultry. Major herbs included tansy, rue, pennyroyal, and hyssop,
which are not used anymore in current form of cooking. Spices like pepper, cinnamon,
cloves, nutmeg, and mace were used a lot. The major chef of the time was Guillaume
Tirel, popularly known as Taillevent.
17th century to early 18th century cuisine or haute cuisine
Haute cuisine meaning “high cuisine” started in the 17th century by a famous chef
named La Varenne who later wrote a book of haute cuisine standards for desserts and
pastries. The chef changed the style of cooking significantly. In the middle ages the
dishes were rich and elaborate, while the new style concentrated on creating lighter
dishes that were relatively easy to prepare.
Late 18th century to 19th century cuisine
Marie-Antoine Carême, a major chef, was born during this phase. He played a significant
role in refining the French cuisine. He created mother sauces that formed the basis of his
cooking style. These included espagnole, velouté, and béchamel sauces. Souffles were
also first made during this time.
Late 19th century to early 20th century cuisine
The major chef of this time was Georges Auguste Escoffier who is known for modernizing
the haute cuisine and organizing what later became the national cuisine of France.
Many hotels were opened in France due to his influence. He created the popularly
known brigade system which divided a professional kitchen in five stations including:
garde manger that prepared cold dishes; the entremettier prepared soups, vegetables
and desserts; the rôtisseur prepared roasts, grilled and fried dishes; the saucier prepared
sauces; and the pâtissier prepared all pastry items. Many cooks worked on the same dish
as per this system and reduced the preparation time. Another renowned chef, Le Guide
Culinaire destressed the use of heavy sauces and created lighter fumets. This style
created sauces that added to the flavor of the dish, not hide flavors which the sauces of
the past did. Common ingredients replaced the expensive ingredients.
Mid 20th century to late 20th century cuisine
Chefs like Paul Bocuse, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé and
Raymond Oliver rebelled against the “orthodoxy” of Escoffier’s cuisine. Gault and Millau
“discovered the formula” contained in ten characteristics of this nouvelle cuisine; these
included:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
Rejection of excessive complication in cooking
Reducing the cooking times to preserve the natural flavors. Steaming was used
Using freshest possible ingredients in cooking
Large menus were abandoned in favor of shorter menus
Strong marinades for meat and game ceased to be used
Stopping the use of heavy sauces in favor of seasoning dishes with fresh herbs,
quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar
7. Use of regional dishes for inspiration instead of haute cuisine dishes
8. New techniques were embraced and modern equipment was often used
9. The chefs paid close attention to the dietary needs of their guests through their
dishes
10. The chefs were extremely inventive and created new combinations and pairings
Provincial- country cooking or cuisine paysanne, French home cooking.
Recipes are simply prepared and meals are seasoned with sage tarragon, rosemary.
Stews, roast chicken, seasonal vegetables and mixed greens are common. Bread,
cheeses and fruits are served at the end of the meal.
3 types of cuisine: describe each
Cuisine Paysanne -Provincial
Haute cuisine- High Cuisine
Nouvelle cuisine-New
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